JULIAN RHODES, during his 19 years on the board at Bradford City, saw plenty of dark times.
Two stints in administration were, by his own admission, “awful”. As was the slide that took the Bantams from the Premier League to the basement division inside just six years.
It means, in a week when the businessman returned to Valley Parade in a consultancy role to help out beleagured joint owners Stefan Rupp and Edin Rahic, Rhodes can put the current travails into context.
“I have been at every home game this season so know how down the fans have felt,” he said to The Yorkshire Post. “But, to me, there have been much bleaker moments than this.
“The whole of 2001 was a nightmare as we tried to deal with the financial fall-out from the Premier League (relegation). As, pretty much, was 2002 when we went into administration for the first time.
“It happened again in 2004 and those were dark, dark times. I also think back to 2011, when I genuinely feared for our Football League status.
“And if we had gone down, Bradford City could not have survived.
“So, while there is no doubting that a lot has to be done to turn things around now, I have seen bleaker times than this. And I firmly believe the club can come through this, providing that everyone pulls together.”
The SOS to Rhodes last Sunday came with City rock bottom of League One. Defeat to Portsmouth 24 hours earlier had left Bradford seven points adrift of safety amid an atmosphere in the stands that has been turning increasingly toxic with each passing week.
Supporters blame Rahic and Rupp for the club’s predicament. Rhodes’ task is to rebuild a fractured relationship between club and supporters.
We couldn’t have done half the things we eventually achieved under Phil Parkinson without the people of Bradford behind us.Julian Rhodes
“My ethos will be the same as before,” he said. “I will do what I think is best for Bradford City. I have had an initial look at things and have a few ideas.
“The bottom line is we need to get the city back on board. There has been a breakdown for whatever reason and we have to fix that. We need to be more accessible as a club.
“A few promotions in terms of trying to get people back into the stadium will help. We have to improve the atmosphere because the fans are absolutely crucial to getting the club out of trouble.
“I think back to all the difficult days we had when I was on the board and the fans were vital.
“We couldn’t have done half the things we eventually achieved under Phil Parkinson without the people of Bradford behind us.
“It works two ways. You have to give people something to feel good about. Do that and they will back the club to the hilt. But the onus is on us to get everyone back on board.”
Rhodes, who has already discussed transfer targets with David Hopkin, was the architect of the cheap season ticket offer that saw average crowds soar from around 7,000 in 2007 to more than 20,000 a couple of years ago.
He also wasn’t averse to having one-off promotions, such as the £1 offer that saw Valley Parade packed for key fixtures when City needed a result.
Whether this will be his approach this time around remains to be seen. But Rhodes’ return represents a step forward for a club that has got little else right since the start of the year.
Finally, Bradford has someone back on board that truly understands its home city and, just as importantly, the vagaries of English football.
Not that the return of Rhodes has had a universal welcome from all with some suggesting the move is little more than a PR stunt by Rahic and Rupp.
“It is their club and the final decision has to be with Stefan and Edin,” added Rhodes when asked about the day-to-day running of the club. “But there is no point in me being here if my views are not taken on board.
“Anyway, I don’t think that will happen. I will be very blunt if I have to be. What we all want is the best for Bradford City.”
Rhodes, who along with Mark Lawn sold the club to the current owners in May, 2016, is back at Valley Parade on an open-ended agreement. There is no contract, just a handshake. But all parties see this continuing beyond the end of the season.
“Edin called me on Sunday and asked if we could meet,” added Rhodes. “He wanted me to come in and help. After we had sat down together and gone through a few things, I said I needed to go away and have a think.
“I spoke to my wife and thought she would be against the idea. She saw the impact on my health when the club was in dire financial straits.
“I also hope I left with a decent reputation for trying to do the best for Bradford City and maybe she would not want me to get involved again for fear of trashing that.
“But, instead, Alix said, ‘I can see how all this is upsetting you and that if you don’t go in and try to help then you won’t forgive yourself’. So, here I am.”